I don’t know what Eugene was cleaning or why; it seemed either he was cleaning a mess he made or drew the metaphorical short straw for cleaning duty that day; but he had a bottle of yellow liquid that had to be some form of Lysol. I remember the strong lemony odor in the air as he sprayed it while also holding a wiping rag or paper towels.
We were in a classroom of perhaps 30 or 40 middle or high school students, one of which was a black girl I may have, like Eugene, attended school with in real life. “You bet not spray me with that,” she might’ve phrased it as Eugene, standing and walking around the room as everyone else sat, playfully put the nozzle to her face.
I didn’t think he would actually spray her, but that’s exactly what happened. “Stop,” she yelled after the fact while shooting up from her desk as if she was able to hit Eugene. I thought she would, but she didn’t. Instead she walked away presumably to grab something to wipe away the yellow liquid that was now dripping from her face.
It would’ve been funny if he’d sprayed her on the body. The fact that he sprayed her in the face seemed, as far as childish horseplay goes, to cross the line. Eugene might’ve been smiling when he did it; I don’t know; but I don’t remember anybody laughing. There may have been a few nervous chuckles, but it was kind of like… damn.
Chris Mullins; a light-skinned black or Spanish dude; obviously felt the same way as he broke the awkward silence. I don’t remember his exact words, but he was basically warning Eugene not to spray him and saying or strongly implying what would happen if he did even though Eugene, who’d continued to walk and clean, never even looked his way.
Chris Mullins; it could’ve been “Mullens”; was one of those kids who seemed considerably older than everyone else in the class and probably was; the result of being held back a few grades. There was obviously something wrong with him, off about him, mentally. As if this were a movie, the camera seemed to pan in on his crazy facial expressions.
When he stood up, we all knew, rather I and probably everyone else figured, what would happen. Eugene, a relatively small kid who fit into the normal age bracket of the class, had sat back in his seat by then. Chris, whose threats were spoken loud enough for the whole class to hear, had apparently already scared him before standing up.
Without saying anything else; in fact the room fell back into an awkward silence; he (Chris) walked over toward Eugene as I myself stood up. To help Eugene? Hell no. I don’t think any of us liked Eugene, but I didn’t want to see him get knocked out. I figured I’d use this opportunity of all heads turned their way to sneak out of class early that day.
I was too slow though as I clearly remember a third person, another big black dude, standing up apparently to either go help Chris or get a closer look. I was almost at the door, which was kitty-cornered (diagonal) to the corner of the room Eugene was sitting. I don’t think I was looking back, but I heard the punch, drop and collective gasps.
Just like that Chris knocked him out with one punch. Eugene, whose chair was backed up against the wall, limiting his escape routes and defense options, might’ve put an arm up to block it but to no avail. The kid was out cold. I can’t say I didn’t feel sorry for him as I snuck out, thru the hall, down a swirl of stairs. I guess I was going home.
2022 [ September 03 ]